Sunday, 16 September 2012

Love your neighbour as you love yourself

It has dawned on me I do love my neighbour as I love myself, the problem is I do not love myself very much at all, which means my poor neighbour bombs out too.


So many things have been happening in my life to make me examine love and how I love others.  I recently participated in an online linky thing where we all wrote letters to our 16 year old self and this made thoughts and feelings I had buried deep resurface and I cannot make them go away.
 

For so long, maybe as long as I can remember, I have felt I was too ugly to be loved, even too ugly to be liked.  This then led to feelings that I was useless, unkind, unworthy and to protect myself from rejection or failure I built tough barriers around me.  The barriers took the form of always searching for the negative in people, reducing my opinion of them so that if they rejected me it wouldn’t matter because I had already decided they were less than perfect anyway.  This applied to new people but I think to some extent I also used this strategy on my immediate family, everybody.  This of course then led to a deep loneliness.   This was all disguised behind a care-free, happy and life loving mask to try and win the approval of people I had already rejected.  How exhausting.

This negative assessment of each and every individual I ever come into contact with, and the assumption that given the chance they will reject me, combined with the negative self talk that has consumed my body, wrapped itself around my heart and festered in my soul, has resulted in a long life of thinking and speaking badly about myself and lot of other people.
 

I do not like recognising these things about myself, as I write it is hard to for me to breath but for me it is part of the process of stepping out of the dark and into the light.  God cannot dwell in the brown murkiness that is my soul; the light of Jesus cannot shine bright through me if I do not love myself.  If I am not courageous enough to recognise these feelings I may subconsciously burden my children in a way I would regret forever, I may not be able to love my husband in a way that creates a long and beautiful marriage and I may waste my entire life on things that do not matter.  I want to love my family, friends, community and world as Jesus intended, which requires me to love myself first.


I am inclined to believe I am not alone in having these negative feelings about myself.  I believe most of us love our neighbour as we love our self and this is why there are such high rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse, divorce, loneliness and violence.  Do you think our prisons would be overflowing, would our child safety employees be so overworked, would 45% of marriages end in divorce if we loved ourselves?  I don’t even think we would need to spend so much on education if we all felt truly loved.  We wouldn’t have to worry about so much insignificant nonsense and therefore we would all be better able to learn and reach our potential.


So where do we start?  Becoming aware of the problem is a good place to start.  Allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable this might give other people permission to explore these feelings too.  I have set myself the love dare not to talk negatively about anybody.  I think this alone will help me to love myself more.  It will help create a more nurturing and loving environment in my heart and my house.  I will continue to search for how I might love myself more and I would love to hear any suggestions and thoughts you might have.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A letter to Justine

Emily Freeman has invited people to write letter to their teenage self (http://www.chattingatthesky.com/2012/09/11/dear-me/), to celebrate the release of her new book.  This is my letter, it was fun writing it, you should have a go.

Dear sweet sweet Justine





I need you to know you are loved and you have been created on purpose and your future is filled with peace and joy and hope.  You don’t know it yet but Jesus is with you and one day, when the time is just right, you will understand the meaning of life.  You do not have to work this out for yourself right now, live and it will come.

Yes people are mean, those boys teasing you and the girls excluding you, you will barely remember their names by the time you finish university, they will have no impact on your life at all and you will not even see them again.  Don’t hate them.  I know everybody else is but I am not sure attending your Debutante Ball is such a great idea, if you do insist don’t have your hair done in ringlets.

As far as I can tell you are never going to appeal to the masses but throughout your life you will meet and be friends with beautiful people.  There are going to be times when you feel really lonely and you will constantly search for a better way to exist, but this will be exciting for you and stay true to your intuition, it pays off and you are rewarded with more love than you can dream of right now.

Try not to be so angry, I know you are afraid of being hurt, not fitting in, of being exposed, but relax, life truly isn’t that serious.  Love your Mum and sister more, don’t slam the door so much, even though it feels good sometimes.  Your little sister is awesome, I know you hate her because she is beautiful and life looks easy for her, but she needs you to love her more, she will be your best friend and confidant throughout life, she will be there when you go into labour with your first baby, she will be your sweet, kind and calm bridesmaid, you will talk to her on the phone every day ... yes everyday.

Don’t make that barrier between you and everybody else any thicker or higher, as hard as it is; try to enjoy those people around you. Laugh a little more freely, shake free of the responsibility you have placed on your own shoulders. You are young, you have long legs and beautiful hair, love it, enjoy it, savour it because youth is wonderful. 

 Nobody expects you to have all the answers, relax.  You are gifted in so many ways.  You don’t think you are beautiful, but you are interesting and wonderful people, that you like and respect very much, will want to spend time with you.  You look at yourself and see all the things you are not, or don’t have and some of these things will taunt you continuously, and will always make you feel a little insecure but embrace all that is great about you, and there is plenty.  You want to know what you will be when you grow up but I still have no clue, my only tips are take photos, write stories and learn to love.

Practise saying nice things to and about people, people you like and those you don’t.  It sounds stupid but this is something you will want to master later on in life and if you start now it will be much easier, and save you lots of grief.

The day you hold your baby niece for the first time, say your wedding vows, and cuddle your baby girls with all your might, and invite Jesus to live in your heart, these are the days that matter and they are coming, you are beautiful, you are loved and you are blessed and will be a blessing to many.  So hang in there kiddo, you are loved more than you will ever know.
Love from Justine

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Only the lonely

How many songs do you know about being lonely, the first two that pop straight into my head are “One is the loneliest, number one is the loneliest, Number one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do” (http://youtu.be/22QYriWAF-U) and “Only the lonely Know the way I feel tonight Only the lonely Know this feelin aint right” (http://youtu.be/kjq4wYuwgxs).   Being lonely is one of the greatest things I fear about getting old but this is not why I want to discuss loneliness.


Tonight I lay on the bed reading my children stories before bedtime, they were draped on me, stroking my hair, asking me a bucket load of questions and I just looked at them in complete awe.  Here are these amazing inquisitive, super intuitive, loving beings that I am blessed to know and love.  I feel privileged that I am able to spend all of my days with them, and I feel honoured and humbled that they love me, not because of what I look like, what I can do, they just love me.  It got me thinking we could learn so much from their approach to life.  If we all start out like that does anybody know when do we get turned into cynical, task orientated, judgemental, hypocritical grownups? 


I know I will have the pleasure of having my children in my home for such a short time and I am absolutely committed and focused on loving them and enjoying them, as much as humanly possible, during this time.  I get fleeting feelings of impending loss and heartache when I think of them growing up, but I also get feelings of immense pride when they are able to turn and sing the Tim McGraw song Last Dollar,  “1-2-3 Like a bird I sing Cause you've given me the most beautiful set of wings I’m so glad you’re here today Cause tomorrow I might have to go and fly away” (http://youtu.be/EyFwMd_a6JI).
 

So what does all this have to do with being lonely?  I am thinking one of the most important things we can do to make our world a lovely place to live is to actively do things to make people feel less lonely.  A new person moves to town, invite them over; visit an elderly neighbour; say hello to people in the supermarket; post a birthday card to remember an old friends birthday.  They seem like little acts that could easily and justifiably be over looked in our busy days, but maybe, just maybe, making people feel loved and connected might be more important than getting to a meeting on time, mopping the floors, mowing the lawn, working late to meet a deadline.


The tricky thing is you don’t even have to be alone to feel lonely.  You could start with the people that live in your house, does anybody feel lonely, misunderstood, unheard?  I am reading “The 5 Love Languages of Children”, and I have also started reading “The 5 Love Languages” both by Gary Chapman and this has opened my eyes to the most important relationships in my life.  The concept of love languages examines how we receive love, and if we don’t talk the love language of our spouse or children they may never feel completely loved, and therefore will not be able to reach their full potential.  It is fascinating and I cannot recommend the books highly enough.  I have also been attending a 6 week workshops that includes learning how to be a better listener.  All these things are combining to paint a detailed picture of what is required to love properly, so those nearest and dearest to us don’t feel lonely.  Up until now I kind of assumed we all just knew how to love, but with knowledge and commitment, we can love so much better.


I feel a little like I am on my high horse and I should stop preaching, but I am so obsessed with love at the moment and the benefits that come from love that I just can’t stop thinking, talking and writing about it.  What do you think?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Seasons of life


Spring has arrived and I welcome it with great excitement and enthusiasm, and this has me thinking about seasons, and how in our life we experience many seasons.  Right now a few seasons are coming to an end in my life, including the season of writing for Maranoa Town and Country Mail.  I am not sure what season will come next but I am hopeful it will be great.


Of course not all seasons are great; in nature or life.  Anne Bradstreet said “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome”.  Another comforting thought is “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn”.


We live in a world where it is hard to accept each season.  Traditionally the food we ate and the activities we undertook would have been directly related to the seasons.  Now we can get many fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets all year round and in the process we have sacrificed taste for convenience, with most of us able to afford effective heating and cooling in our homes, the extremes of winter and summer are lessened to some degree. 


Rather than embracing each season we try to control certain elements and then tend to get frustrated when the weather interferes with our fun and plans, when it impacts on the way of life we desire.  We often spend a lot of time and energy trying to control many aspects of life too, uniformity is the key to our lives today, working hard, saving up money, taking out insurance, getting a good education all of which may give us increased security and a sense of safety but are we sacrificing spontaneity and creativity?  What is the cost of trying to make every day the same? I am confident there is magic in each season; we just have to be prepared to experience it.

 
Just like the seasons change so do we, it might be four seasons in one day or one season may last a really long time, it would be nice if we could celebrate and experience fully each season of our life rather than trying to be the same all the time.  For example when we are pregnant we should be allowed to act and be treated differently, if we are grieving and overcome with misery we should be allowed to display this emotion, if we are really happy and overjoyed we should be able to express this too. 


Whether it is our emotions, the weather or a stage of our life acknowledge it, look for the good in it and always remember ‘this too shall pass’.  We are so darn busy these days any change or deviation from the plan can be seen as an inconvenience, but it doesn’t have to be.  Just like the moon has its cycle, sometimes the sky is dark or there is a thin slither of a moon other times it is full and glorious and lights up the whole night, we are the same, and life experiences the same ebbs and flows, and no amount of planning or controlling will alter these cycles.
 
So live in the season, live in the spirit, don’t wish it away or try to control it, embrace it, it is part of the perfect plan and I do hope you will enjoy spring, as Sitting Bull said “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”